Hands-free calling is coming to Google Home, and it’ll be better than Amazon Echo’s

The Google Home smart speaker

Google’s high-tech smart speaker is getting a throw-back feature — the ability to make phone calls.

Owners of Google Home will be able to place calls by just asking the device to call a person or a business. Google will offer the service as a free update for US users of the gadget later this year, Rishi Chandra, the company’s vice president for home products, announced Wednesday at Google’s IO developer conference in Mountain View, California.

“Now you can call mom while you’re scrambling to get the kids ready in the morning,” Chandra said.

The new feature matches a similar one Amazon recently announced for its Echo smart speaker. Unlike Echo, though, Home can recognize the voices of different people in a home. So, if a husband asks the Home to “call mom,” the speaker will know to call his mother rather his wife’s.

Another difference between the calling feature on the Home and that on the Echo: Home owners will be able to use it to call any regular phone number. Echo users, by contrast, can only call other Echo speakers.

The new feature, which will assign a private phone number to the Home, won’t require any set up to work, Chandra said. However, users will be able to configure home to dial using their mobile number instead.

Chandra didn’t say exactly when the feature will launch or whether there are any limitations on the free calls.